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Thermal Disturbances in Permafrost Due to Open Pit Mining and Tailings Impoundment

Department of Civil Engineering, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Ottawa, ON K1P 5S9, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Minerals 2020, 10(1), 35;
Received: 3 December 2019 / Accepted: 21 December 2019 / Published: 30 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nuclear Waste Disposal)
The paper is concerned with thermal disturbances in continuous permafrost due to open pit mining and tailings impoundment in the cold regions of Northern Canada. Numerical simulations were conducted to investigate issues of thermal regime changes and permafrost degradation in both the short term and the long term in connection with the proposed Kiggavik project in Nunavut, Canada. The results of numerical simulations indicate that no open talik would form below the East Zone and Center Zone pits during the estimated mining and milling operation period of 14 years, although a thin thawed zone would develop surrounding the open pits. For the Main Zone pit where the excavation would break through permafrost, the open talik remains following an extended operation period of 25 years with a 5 to 30 m thawed zone along the pit side walls. In the long term, with a plausible climate change scenario of 5 °C increase in the mean annual ground surface temperature during the next 100 years, the permafrost surrounding the in-pit tailings management facilities (TMFs) would reduce greatly in about 500 years. However, an approximately 40 m thick permafrost layer would remain on the top of the TMFs, which is impervious and would prevent any tailings pore water from migrating upward to reach the ground surface. View Full-Text
Keywords: permafrost; uranium mining; Talik; tailings; Kiggavik; climate change permafrost; uranium mining; Talik; tailings; Kiggavik; climate change
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Booshehrian, A.; Wan, R.; Su, G. Thermal Disturbances in Permafrost Due to Open Pit Mining and Tailings Impoundment. Minerals 2020, 10, 35.

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